[COMPLETE] I-40 Cross-Country - Barstow CA to Wilmington NC

Inspired by my recent completion of the I-90 Coast-to-Coast - Boston to Seattle flight plan, I’m embarking on my own Cross-Country following the I-40 highway from Pioneer Town Barstow CA to the mid-Atlantic coastal area of Wilmington NC. I’ll be using a variety of aircraft, but all will be General Aviation.

Post Flight Notes

Leg 1: Barstow-Daggett (Barstow CA) to Ford Motor Co Proving Ground (Yucca AZ)
Leg 2: Ford Motor Co Proving Ground (Yucca AZ) to Flagstaff-Pulliam (Flagstaff AZ)
Leg 3: Flagstaff-Pulliam (Flagstaff AZ) to Gallup Municpal (Gallup NM)
Leg 4: Gallup Municipal (Gallup NM) to Albuquerque Intl Sunport (Albuquerque NM)
Leg 5: Albuquerque Intl Sunport (Albuquerque NM) to Tucumcari Muncipal (Tucumcari NM)
Leg 6: Tucumcari Muncipal (Tucumcari NM) to Clinton-Sherman (Clinton OK)
Leg 7: Clinton-Sherman (Clinton OK) to Shawnee Regional (Shawnee OK)
Leg 8: Shawnee Regional (Shawnee OK) to Fort Smith Regional (Fort Smith AR)
Leg 9: Fort Smith Regional (Fort Smith AR) to Carlisle Municipal (Carlisle AR)
Leg 10: Carlisle Municipal (Carlisle AR) to Millington Jetport Regional (Millington TN)
Leg 11: Millington Jetport Regional (Millington TN) to John C. Tune (Nashville TN)
Leg 12: John C. Tune (Nashville TN) to Knoxville-Downtown (Knoxville TN)
Leg 13: Knoxville-Downtown (Knoxville TN) to Hickory-Regional (Hickory, NC)
Leg 14: Hickory-Regional (Hickory NC) to Burlington-Alamance Regional (Burlington NC)
Leg 15: Burlington-Alamance Regional (Burlington NC) to Duplin County (Kenansville NC)
Leg 16: Duplin County (Kenansville NC) to Pilot’s Ridge (Carolina Beach, NC)

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Leg 1: Barstow-Daggett (Barstow CA) to Ford Motor Co Proving Ground (Yucca AZ)

We’ll kick off this flight plan with a unique arrival field; starting from the Pioneer Town of Barstow CA but arriving at Yucca Flats AZ, home of the Ford Motor Company’s Proving Grounds Test Track.

Departing Barstow-Daggett:

Our constant reference point - Interstate-40:

Passing over the Kelso Dunes Wilderness:

We get a great view of the federally protected and famous Kelso Dunes - the sand field makes booming sounds (seriously) thanks to it’s sand grain size and smoothness.

Crossing the Mojave Wilderness Park ridges:

Definitely not the place you want to have an engine failure - the desolate plains are only broken by rugged low hills and mountain ridges, crisscrossed by lonely highways and state roads:

Crossing over Needles CA, over to the South is the Lake Havasu Wildlife Refuge and Lake Havasu City:

Our unique arrival field - the Ford Motor Company’s Proving Ground for car testing. The track is actually built around an active airport, judging by the number of anti-collision lights and a constant stream of calls on the CTAF:

That TBM was co-altitude, so it was a good thing we made a wider off-set entering the downwind leg as he blew past us just under 200 kts (325 kts closure):

Turning base onto R18:

Just made touchdown and someone in the pattern does a go-around:

It’s a fairly large field with two ramps - note the unique zig-zag test track on the southern end:

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Leg 2: Ford Motor Co Proving Ground (Yucca AZ) to Flagstaff-Pulliam (Flagstaff AZ)

We head further east into high-country; but I spared us the experience of Sedona once more :grinning: and picked Flagstaff a few miles ahead. 122 nm 0:41:00 enroute thanks to the Vertigo.

It’s hard to hold the Vertigo back on departure, but we’re trying to stay under 250 knots:

Immediate climbout to 9,000’ MEA to clear Hualapai Peak ridge:

Desolate but beautiful terrain broken by the occasional rough strip:

Flagstaff is on a plateau - it falls away to the lower plains south through the Sycamore Wilderness:

Mount Francisco is the major topo landmark on the plateau, while Rogers Lake marks roughly 5 nm to go before Flagstaff-Pulliam:

Entering the Flagstaff-Pulliam pattern, we’re cleared for R21 visual:

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On final and safe arrival at KFLG:

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Leg 3: Flagstaff-Pulliam (Flagstaff AZ) to Gallup Municpal (Gallup NM)

A nice day for a spin - we get to see a few tourist sites, and come close to a field we all know (but may not love :slight_smile: ) - 142 nm 0:55:00 enroute.

Departing Flagstaff-Pulliam, we pass by Mount Francisco and over downtown Flagstaff - prominently below us is the Pine Canyon Golf Course.

Yep, that’s Sedona in the middle background, the SID took us to the South of Flagstaff. :slight_smile: Let’s not disturb Captain Jess training the latest batch of MSFS flyers. We’ve got other places to be!

Checkpoint - Mormon Lake to the NE of Sedona:

I didn’t notice this on the pre-flight planning, but fortuitously we pass over the awesome Meteor Crater (Winslow AZ) site, one of the largest privately owned meteor impact locations.

The natural beauty of the US desert region - immense fissures forming deep valleys, punctuated by small ridges, buttes and peaks:

Safe arrival at Gallup Muncipal (yes, I have the Chuck Berry Rt. 66 song stuck in my head now, hope you do too! :grinning: ):

Leg 4: Gallup Municipal (Gallup NM) to Albuquerque Intl Sunport (Albuquerque NM)

Didn’t see too much on this leg as the Vertigo made short work of the transit, although we did beat some bad weather at arrival (a harbinger as it turns out in later legs) - 111 nm 0:44:00 enroute.

Departing Gallup Muni:

Yep, that’s someone’s contrail’s burned into the terrain :slightly_smiling_face:

I-40 keeping us oriented, and passing Fort Wingate just outside the Cibola National Forest:

Black Mesa in the distance, overlooking Grants NM (no, not the one from Half-Life :slight_smile: )

Historic Albuquerque - the famous Rio Grande cuts through the center and shadowed in the east by the Sandia Mountain range.

We’ll just beat that towering t-storm cell arriving at Albuquerque Intl:

Leg 5: Albuquerque Intl Sunport (Albuquerque NM) to Tucumcari Muncipal (Tucumcari NM)

I got a late start on this leg, and departed just before dusk. The bad weather that I beat coming into Albuquerque is now in front of me, and a night flight to boot - good thing I took the Turbo Bonanza - nice steady platform with a lot of power and performance - 148 nm 1:07:00 enroute.

Dusk departure at International Sunport:

The weather closed in real quick, but beautiful colors nontheless at sunset:

An IFR flight into bad WX is not the best time to get reaquainted with the new weather radar, but I can say that it works amazingly well - every time I entered a rain zone as depicted, the patter could be heard outside - no more cloud predictions!

“Black as a cat in a coal mine at midnight” as one pilot wrote of his night flying experience - I now know what he meant:

Thank goodness for CAT I approaches, we made it down safely into Tucumcari Muni:

Leg 6: Tucumcari Muncipal (Tucumcari NM) to Clinton-Sherman (Clinton OK)

Bad weather ahead - that should have been a sign to stay put - but the wanderlust to continue Eastward overrides any reasonable planning. This is one of those times that the G1000 and the SR-22’s relatively forgiving handling but high performance helped. Originally I had planned to put down at Mclean-Gray County about 57 nm east of Amarillo, but the bad weather was wide-spread and visibility was too poor to attempt a non-precision field landing. I diverted further east to the nearest field with IAPs in Oklahoma - 227 nm 1:31:00 enroute.

Departing Tucumcari Muni with Monument Point in the background, the rain was already getting heavy but I’ve not seen the worst of it yet:

NEXRAD was not painting a good picture as I widened the range knob - it was about 9/10s cloud cover so I requested higher from ATC until I found a good layer at about 12,000’. And oh yeah - lightning. :grinning:

This was the only glimpse of Amarillo I had - after that, the weather completely socked in below me, including my original arrival field:

I managed to beat the worst of the storm front again, despite a let down from cruise that was mostly instruments - relatively good visibility around the divert field, so log another safe arrival. Whew!

Leg 7: Clinton-Sherman (Clinton OK) to Shawnee Regional (Shawnee OK)

Unlike the song lyrics, Oklahoma was not O.K. :slight_smile: on this leg. Note to self, do not attempt a Category II ILS landing in a new plane, especially since it’s not certified for that. Bad weather, ugh. I paid for the relatively good fortune making into Clinton with a big bill trying a short hop to Shawnee in the new-to-me Cessna 172 JT-A. More on that below - 111 nm 00:47:00 enroute.

Departing Clinton - I think I had a ground violation, but the only way to get to the active was to either backtaxi on it, or the parallel - the follies of a former Strategic Air Command base (which explains the huge ramp):

Almost immediately in the soup again, but this time the cloudbase is very low - I’m cruising at about 4,000’, a grand over recommended MEA, and you can barely see the ground below. Not good:

Fire up the NEXRAD - nothing but Red ahead

GPS says I’m over the southern end of Oklahoma City, but I’ll have to take it on faith - there is nothing out there but bad, bad weather.

Turning final - thank goodness I had the sense to pick a field with some IAP, and I’m not the only crazy one out here in a small plane - judging by a quick glimpse of someone’s position strobes before they melted back into the muck:

I’m at 1200’ AGL and I cannot see squat. Approach plate indicates there are two roads in perpendicular to the field end. Is that - yep - a flash of lightning confirms it, and I get a brief glimpse of how close I really am.

For the record - this is indeed a Class II ILS approach - when I break out the runway threshold lights, I am approximately 80’ AGL and (.12) nm distance - way below MDA and RVR for the aircraft I’m flying (and my skill level):


Bless this ramp marshaller - he stuck around waiting for me to bumble my way through a narrow taxiway to find my spot. I don’t think I’ve ever breathed a sigh of virtual relief over this sim until today. Amazing job Asobo on the WX!

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Leg 8: Shawnee Regional (Shawnee OK) to Fort Smith Regional (Fort Smith AR)

It seems I’d best get accustomed to a lunch of “soup” with my sandwiches, because that’s what it’s been like for the last few legs. Yes, it’s because of Live Weather and my intended flight plan coinciding with a huge slow moving rain mass across the lower 48, but hey, part of the appeal of the sim is as real it gets. That includes bad weather, but I’m hoping to change some of that soon - 126 nm 01:23:00 enroute.

Departing Shawnee Regional with my hopes up for good WX:

Looks promising so far, just cloud cover:

And there it goes - pushing out the range knob on NEXRAD, there’s the trailing edge of that storm front that I’ve been tagging back and forth with since Albuquerque. Ugh:

The cloud cover quickly becomes widespread again but so far, no precip:

We’re still cloud skipping at 7,000 so I take it up to 9,500’ - the Continental CD-155 responds like a champ, we’re getting better performance up here unsurprisingly:

NEXRAD is showing I’ll catch up with some of heavier parts of the storm front over Fort Smith - no choice, I declare an IFR and dial in the RNAV for R25 and eventually begin descent back into the muck:

Checking in with arguably one of the coolest Sector Names - Razorback Approach - I circle around the north side of the city to get on the IAF:

Fort Smith is less hairy than Shawnee - we have good RVR and ground visibility compared to the near zero-zero yesterday, GS is captured a few seconds after hearing the Outer Marker beeper, and we get a decent CAT I recovery:

Leg 9: Fort Smith Regional (Fort Smith AR) to Carlisle Municipal (Carlisle AR)

As the old saying goes “My luck’s changing for the better everyday.” Well - maybe that day is today for this leg and murky weather - 134 nm, 01:07:00 enroute.

I-40 is on the far side of the Arkansas River running parallel to our course.

Doesn’t look good - cloud layer slowly closing in, but the precip is still further down the road:

A rare low and slow flyer - all other traffic is high up; I’m trying to stay VFR for as long as I can:

Jones Mountain outside the PIC window, passing the distinctive curves of Petit-Jean River, we’re about half-way to Carlisle:

Does that…yep, NEXRAD shows the front dissipating - could it be?

Yep, it’s still clearing - Harris Brake off to port with Fourche Pinnacle aft:

Met the Arkansas River again, we’re almost to Little Rock - but forget that for a moment - look at that far horizon - beautiful:

Still pockets of light precip as we begin descent on final, but nothing we can’t handle compared to the last two legs:

Easy breakout - we catch glimpse of the threshold and VASI at around 2.8 nm, just in time for an early dinner:

Leg 10: Carlisle Municipal (Carlisle AR) to Millington Jetport Regional (Millington TN)

Night transit as I got another late start again - a short hop of 96 nm, 0:40:00.

Dusk departure from Carlisle Municipal - a beautiful sunset but it’s muted by a persistent low cloudbase (again):

Thanks to NEXRAD, looks like the storm front’s clearing at the arrival field (with any luck):

One of the best things I enjoy is watching the environmental transitions in the sim - so different from FSX - it’s natural and surprising at the same time - as darkness creeps in, and all that’s visible is the beacon/position lights and the glow from the cockpit instruments:

Not much to see on this leg - but the starfield shone brightly above the cloudbase and I caught a glimpse of a night game in progress at the Covington city fields while on Final Approach:

Safe arrival at Millington Jetport - we’re now in Tennessee!

Leg 11: Millington Jetport Regional (Millington TN) to John C. Tune (Nashville TN)

A promising start that ended yet again with tough weather at arrival - 154 nm, 1:01:00.

It looked like a good flying day departing Millington:

But the clouds were widespread further down the route; not a problem for the high flyers around me though:

A few glimpses of the terrain on the route:

Entering the soup on descent into John C. Tune:

The arrival field is Northwest of Nashville, in an area called Cockrill bend, bounded by the Cumberland River - good breakout of the threshold, nothing white-knuckled:

Leg 12: John C. Tune (Nashville TN) to Knoxville-Downtown (Knoxville TN)

I caught a glimpse of Music City on my way out, but this darn weather that’s been persisting over the last couple of legs closed in again - 147 nm 00:57:00 enroute.

Good launch out of John C. Tune, and a nice view of downtown Nashville including the Nissan (Adelphia) Stadium across the river from the Arts District:

Routing around Nashville International (KBNA) - plenty of cargo jet traffic today:

Requested higher from ATC to just get over this storm bank:

Not much to see unfortunately, just clouds upon clouds horizon-to-horizon - and eventually we head back into the muck on descent:

A quick glimpse of sunlight somewhere over near Jefferson City during the approach, and we get a quick break ourselves before it closes it again:

Coincidentally, Knoxville-Downtown is also located at a bend, this time of the Tennessee River - east of the city - just don’t get low and short because the water is right there:

Leg 13: Knoxville-Downtown (Knoxville TN) to Hickory-Regional (Hickory, NC)

Rain and wind again, but I got some glimpses of the scenery on the way - 122 nm 1:05:00 enroute.

Departing Knoxville-Downtown, passing over University of Tennessee and a view of the tricky Runway 26 approach over the river:

NEXRAD shows scattered precip enroute, at least it doesn’t look like we’ll be dodging some serious thundercells:

Double-rainbow over Douglas Lake:

Declared pop-up IFR and climbed to get out of the low scud:

Completely obscured views of the Cherokee National Forest’s rugged terrain - we can only appreciate it through Synthetic Vision:

Double rainbows again south of Lenoir - I should have bought a lotto ticket!

Fairly obscured on the approach, but cleared out just before the threshold - log another one:

Leg 14: Hickory-Regional (Hickory NC) to Burlington-Alamance Regional (Burlington NC)

Vertigo makes short work of this straight line run - 95 nm 00:38:00 enroute. I got exhausted of wind and rain, so I did switch to one of my milder and better weather presets from Sofly.

Departing Hickory-Regional, this is the first time I tried one of the black liveries, it’s actually quite sharp-looking:

Just passing Statesville, yes I was busting speed limits:

South of Mocksville before turning in further for the ILS approach:

I elected to take ILS R06 passing over Lake Mackintosh:

Leg 15: Burlington-Alamance Regional (Burlington NC) to Duplin County (Kenansville NC)

Ran down this leg using the Vertigo, and I really really tried to stick to the 250 kts rule, but the plane just doesn’t want to be held back - 96 nm 00:41:00 enroute.

Departing Burlington-Alamance, with a good view of downtown and surrounding area below:

Double rainbows on the way past Jordan Lake:

Directly off the wingtip on the horizon are the approach lights for 05R/L at Raleigh-Durham Airport:

Passing Harris Nuclear Power Plant:

This is a fairly densely populated part of North Carolina, seen by passing over Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina:

Turning into the approach pattern and another safe arrival:

Leg 16: Duplin County (Kenansville NC) to Pilot’s Ridge (Carolina Beach, NC)

The last leg - we can almost see the Atlantic - 71 nm 0:40:00 enroute.

Departing Duplin County and passing over Kenansville:

Both I-40 and the Northeast Cape Fear make their way east toward Wilmington:

An amusing set of GPS nav points on our route:

We arrive at the coastline, over King’s Landing and Topsail Beach - wonderful!

A beautiful landscape featuring the coastal beaches and tiny settlements dotting the North Carolina capes:

We turn south underneath Wilmington’s R35 approach late and into a setting sun for arrival at the private Pilot’s Ranch airstrip at Carolina:

Post-Flight Notes:

I-40 has some really picturesque segments, but Live Weather can get the best of you. It’s really player’s choice - turning it on makes things more realistic and challenging - as seen in my first and probably only attempt at a Category II instrument landing in an uncertified plane - but you can miss some of the sights due to obscuration, wind and rain.

Overall this route isn’t as challenging to the pilot equipment wise - any piston will do, but you may end up declaring IFR more often than you think, so plan ahead. The average MEA once you clear some of the desert ridges is anywhere from 2,500’ to 4,000’.